On August 24th, I spent the better part of the day attending a workshop in St. Paul put on by Advocating Change Together (ACT). ACT is a grassroots disability rights organization run by and for people with developmental and other disabilities. Among other things, ACT is working to help make people with disabilities lives' better by teaching them skills to make them better self-advocates to take charge of their own lives.
To paraphrase their flyer, the objective for the meeting was: "Do Metro Area self-advocacy groups want the metro region of Self-Advocates Minnesota (SAM) to work together as a team? And, if we do, we need to define the structure, strategies and players."
I spent close to four hours watching people with various levels of developmental disabilities make some incredible decisions based on very rational thought processes much of society doesn't think they possess. Therefore, "We" need to make those decisions for this group of people. They proved to me in that short time society is not giving credit where credit is due!
I was very impressed with several people who were obviously making many, if not all of the decisions they needed to live their lives to the fullest. It was a fun experience.
I was especially impressed at the end of the workshop when it came time to vote on the object of the day; only one woman needed clarification on the question put before them. I had been interjecting some of own thoughts and suggestions throughout the meeting; so, I tried to explain the issue in a little different language I believed would make it easier for her to understand.
Then she understood the question and voted with the rest of the self-advocates to make the motion unanimous. By the way, the only people who were allowed to vote were the individuals who had disabilities. The staff members from the various organizations were not allowed to vote. After all, the workshop was about self-advocacy.
The crowning achievement for me was when they asked for two volunteers to plan the next meeting and get their new project off of the ground, one woman shot her hand right up and eagerly volunteered. She was ready to go! Almost immediately, another woman also volunteered.
I immediately told them how impressed I was they were taking on that new responsibility, and they were demonstrating exactly what the workshop was all about, self-advocacy. They both got huge smiles and thanked me for the compliment.
I'll be watching to see how their new leadership group develops.